Stay and play

With a name that perfectly describes what happens within, Punch Bowl Social’s hybrid of casual restaurants and entertainment centers has brought tremendous growth to the company. Annual sales have increased up to 45 percent in the past five years.

The 25,000-square-foot concept pairs casual dining with such unexpected destination attractions as mini-golf courses, private karaoke rooms, bowling alleys, Skee-Ball and bocce, along with collaborative social virtual-reality experiences such as family and friends zombie battles.

CEO Robert Thompson says Punch Bowl Social is “positioned as a lifestyle brand for millennials who typically crave experiences.”

The dining area has an open kitchen, with menu offerings including chicken and waffles with chipotle-citrus maple syrup and strawberries or roasted poblano baked macaroni and cheese. Three or four separate bar areas specialize in craft beers, cocktails and punch; the bar areas are decentralized and compartmentalized to create a sense of warmth and comradeship.

Typical locations are in heavily populated areas such as Arlington, Va., with high-density housing, business districts that provide corporate traffic and other restaurants. “So we’re not on an island,” Thompson says.

The décor utilizes natural materials such as wood and concrete, and each facility is fashioned from five design themes: Mountain Lodge, Victorian, Industrial, Mid-Century modern and local elements native to the history of the neighborhood. The Arlington location reflects a 1906 incident when elephants escaped from a traveling circus and rampaged the countryside. The décor includes posters of elephants and circuses.

A prototype designed to fit into smaller spaces at 12,000 square feet will open this summer in Fort Worth, Texas; the smaller locations are expected to account for 25 percent of future growth.

Punch Bowl Social
Founder and CEO: Robert Thompson
Locations: 16